BALTIMORE – The Orioles games with the Washington Nationals are starting to feel more emotional. On Monday, there were the competing chants in the stands. Buck Showalter chided Nationals fans a day later, and on Thursday night, the Orioles closed out the rain-shortened three-game series with a gritty win.
Wei-Yin Chen won his team-high ninth game as the Orioles beat the Nationals 4-3 before 30,417 at Oriole Park.
As a bonus for fans, the two teams play another game on Aug. 4 at Nationals Park to make up the rainout.
Showalter has been continually praising the Nationals (49-41), who are a percentage point ahead of Atlanta for the NL East lead.
“That's a good club. I'm glad they’re somebody else's problem,” Showalter said.
Adam Jones, who has become attuned to the sports vibe in the area, and attends Ravens, Wizards and Capitals games, knows what these games mean.
“I think it’s good for the DMV area that both teams are playing quite well, especially this late into the season. We’re both first place in our respective divisions. That’s a good team. That’s a great pitching staff on top of baseball, if not the top. The bullpen’s electric,” Jones said.
“That’s a very good team. You raise the competition. We love it. We love the competition, and we love the fact that you never know what could happen in October. You could have a Battle of the Beltways when it’s a little colder and bring the fans back out.”
A lot has to happen before an Orioles-Nationals World Series occurs.
But, both teams are good, and when it when it was pointed out to Jones, who played on the last four losing teams in a stretch of 14 straight sub .500 seasons, that the Orioles won their 50th game earlier than at any time since 1997, he wouldn’t totally buy into it.
“I didn’t know that, so it’s a good thing, but the Orioles also haven’t been that good since ’97, so that’s a hard thing to really say,” Jones said. “We don’t look at all that stuff.”
Chen made his final start before next week’s All-Star break, and while it wasn’t his strongest, he still ends the unofficial first half those nine wins.
“Does it feel like he's got nine wins? It feels like our team gets the win,” Showalter said.
Chen is now 9-3. He allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“Wei-Yin's so close going seven or eight innings, but it's the consistency of the off-speed pitches that keeps him from quite making that last jump. But they've gotten better, a little more consistently,” Showalter said.
The Orioles (50-41) took a quick 4-0 lead after three, and Chen allowed a run in the fourth on Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single and two in the sixth on Jayson Werth’s 10th home run and doubles by Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.
After Desmond’s double, Tommy Hunter replaced Chen and retired all four batters he faced. Hunter’s scoreless streak is now 12 1/3 innings.
“Of course I am happy because this is the first time during my career, including my career in Japan, the first time before the All-Star break that I can get that many wins. So, I’m pretty happy. I think the reason I can get that many wins is because of my teammates really picked me up during the first half of the season,” Chen said through his translator.
Steve Pearce hit his 11th home run of the year off Gio Gonzalez (6-5) in the first inning.
With two outs in the third, Nick Markakis walked. Pearce singled, and Jones hit a double to right with Markakis scoring. Nelson Cruz, who had been 0-for-11 against Gonzalez, grounded to Desmond at short.
For some reason, Desmond fired the ball to third, but it was far over the head of Anthony Rendon and both Pearce and Jones scored for a 4-0 lead.
Darren O’Day escaped the eighth without allowing a run though it wasn’t easy. With one out, LaRoche doubled. After Zimmerman struck out, Bryce Harper was walked intentionally. The runners moved up on Caleb Joseph’s passed ball. Desmond was hit by a pitch and with the bases loaded, Ramos flied to center to end the inning.
Zach Britton pitched a scoreless ninth for his 15th save.
“I'd rather it be a nice easy inning, like Tommy went out there and had or Zach had, but I've got to make it exciting sometimes,” O’Day said.
NOTES: O’Day has 11 straight scoreless innings.
-Dylan Bundy allowed three runs on five hits in three-plus innings, walked two and struck out two.
-Miguel Gonzalez (4-5, 4.22) faces Hiroki Kuroda (6-6, 4.20) on Friday night as the Orioles begin a three-game series with the New York Yankees.